Government's campaign suggesting Kiwis could shorten showers, limit heating to save money criticised

The Government is being savaged online after it announced a new public information campaign with tips on how Kiwis could save up to $500 on their power bills.

They include suggesting New Zealanders have shorter showers and don't turn their heaters above a certain temperature.

It's being labelled as "arrogant and pathetic" by the National Party, while the Green Party says the wealthy should be taxed instead of Kiwis being told to have shorter showers.

The 'Find Money in Weird Places' campaign was launched by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods on Wednesday to help inform Kiwis on ways to keep their homes warm and dry with lower power bills.

The campaign is a partnership between the Government agency Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's (EECA) Warmer Kiwi Homes programme and Consumer NZ, with support from the Electricity Authority.

"There is an immediate need to support Kiwi families with information on energy saving," said Woods. "These ideas aren't new – but they are meaningful to families. Small steps can add up to savings that make a real difference."

The tips are:

  • Checking you're on the best power plan for you and your whānau 
  • Switching off appliances at the wall when you're not using them 
  • Setting your heat pump to a maximum of 21 degrees 
  • Changing your washing machine settings to cold wash 
  • Shortening showers to five minutes. 

There was a brutal response to the campaign online very soon after it was launched.

National's campaign chair Chris Bishop released a statement calling the campaign a "lecture" and "arrogant and pathetic". 

"Kiwis need some leadership not a lecture," Bishop said. 

"On the same day the Reserve Bank hiked interest rates to fight Grant Robertson's wasteful spending, it's been revealed the Government will spend taxpayers' money lecturing Kiwis to turn their heat pump down and to have shorter showers.

"The Government has called its campaign 'Finding Money in Weird Places'. Clearly this campaign shows one weird place Labour could find some savings would be its own bloated bureaucracy."

ACT Party leader David Seymour asked whether the Government thought Kiwis "are stupid?"

"It's like a burglar coming back to a house they've robbed to tell their victim how to stay safe," Seymour said.

"The level of gaslighting is off the charts.

"This is going to be a nationwide campaign featuring on TV, social media, print, on bus stops, and in malls. It will tell people to switch off appliances at the wall when they’re not using them and to shorten their showers to five minutes.

"Every New Zealander is going to get a chance to see how condescending and out of touch this Government is."

The Green Party shared Newshub's initial story on the campaign, saying that instead of Kiwis being told to have shorter showers, the mega-wealthy should be taxed. It referenced IRD research which found 311 of New Zealand's richest families have a collective wealth of $85 billion. 

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March tweeted that the Government could have "guaranteed liveable incomes for all but instead it's choosing to give:". He then shared a picture of Paris Hilton with her infamous 'stop being poor' tank top on. 

The Aunties, which supports people affected by domestic violence, tweeted: "What is this bullshit?"

National MP Judith Collins provided what she called a "better solution" than what the campaign was suggesting - "change the government". 

Auckland Action Against Poverty also recommended the Government tax wealth "to fund our essential needs".

"Actually the Government should make sure the essential needs of our communities are free for all, so we're not having to 'find money in weird places' lol."

Another Twitter user tweeted: "Our whānau are already suffering and cutting wellbeing corners they shouldn't have to. Meanwhile, the wealthy are under-taxed, supermarkets are making gross excess profits, and fossil fuel co's are reporting record profits. Tax them appropriately before telling us how to save."

Former Labour Party advisor Clint Smith tweeted: "government agencies should be working on systemic changes to reduce emissions, not petty moralising. completely tone deaf. and a free hit for the people who oppose doing anything on climate change."

The new campaign will feature on television, social media, in print publications and on bus stops and malls throughout winter. A brochure with supporting tips will also be delivered to around 500,000 households that receive the Government's Winter Energy Payment. An additional 16-page booklet with more energy-saving information will be distributed in seven languages.

In Budget 2023, the Government announced it was expanding the EECA's Warmer Kiwi Homes programme, to deliver 26,500 insulation and heating retrofits per year over the next four years as well as energy-efficient hot water heaters and LED lights. 

It has been allocated $402.6 million over four years to deliver the work, including $20 million for around 5 million LEDs. 

"The programme extension will help tens of thousands more New Zealanders lower their power bills and improve their health by improving the thermal performance and heating in their homes," said Woods.

The expanded Warmer Kiwi Homes programme is expected to save approximately 35,400 tonnes of CO2e per year by 2026/27.

A Motu study found the programme was reducing electricity use in the homes by 16 percent on average over winter months.   

The Budget provided other cost of living measures, such as ditching the $5 prescription co-payment, making public transport fares free for under 13-year-olds, and extending the early childhood education subsidy to more families.